Hands off the Central Lending
Sir, - Once again the Birmingham Central Library building has to take the rap for previous bad management and present-day under-funding. The old library building was demolished because its distinguished architecture and purpose were not recognised nor understood at the time, and now its successor is under threat for similar reasons.
While the Sixties building will never attract the affection of its predecessor, it fulfils a difficult task. What other cradle of learning has had to endure the biggest and, certainly, the smelliest McDonald's in the western galaxy; the wasteful and inappropriate window-boxes on the distinguished modern-movement frontage; the gross modification of the original architects' designs; the attempt to turn it into some sort of ill-defined social centre; the lack of care for the original furnishings; the apparent lack of support for specialist front-line staff, and the totally inadequate maintenance?
Like it or not, the Central Library houses a remarkable world-class (especially nineteenth-century) reference collection and, unlike the national copyright libraries, most books and journals are available without advance ordering. The maintenance of sensible opening hours also deserves our thanks and democratises access, although the intimidating and noisy climate in which serious researchers have to work does not.
Its specialist collections attract visitors from far afield and its location, within a short walk of the central station, is a major attraction. With a sensible brief to a sympathetic architect it would be possible to extend and improve the facilities on the present site.
The library stands next to the council's administrative centre, in the heart of the city. If the books for a 'Central' Library are removed, what is the argument for maintaining the Council House in its present position? The proposal is a silly response to a silly proposition, leave it where it is.
DR JIM BERROW
Develop the library
not relocate it
Sir, - I would agree wholeheartedly with Dr H Warson (Post, Mar 25) that the Birmingham Central Library should stay where it is. Sometime ago I remember Prince Charles comparing the layout of the library to an incinerator.
Be that as it may, it serves a magnificent purpose and is well situated centrally with facilities near shops and restaurants and within walking proximity of the canal area and the developing facilities available there.
The library in the reference sections is well provided for especially in the sections of law, history, economics, sociology, philosophy and religion. There is a very good arts section with many excellently researched reference works and with excellent references concerning particular artists and periods.
With adequate maintenance and planning this pleasant library can continue to play a relevant part in the development of learning in Birmingham. The Birmingham Central Library has plenty of room for development in the future without contemplating a move.
Rev J GORMAN
on world poverty
Sir, - With good reason it was long assumed that it was the business and professional classes in emerging countries who were most receptive to liberal democratic values and responsive to western interests. However, in the late 1990s the West and its institutions have alienated those interests in many countries, and particularly in the summer of 1998 in two of the least stable of the nuclear states - Russia and Pakistan.
It was two summers ago that the International Monetary Fund (IMF) fumbled its anyhow quixotic attempt to buoy up the Russian Rouble regardless of Yeltsin's failed reform. That same summer, in an attempt to humble the newly-nuclear Pakistan, the IMF let Islamabad almost go into default. In both countries it was the local business classes who lost out in the financial crunching. …